Firstly, I want to say that I know this post is a long one because I wanted to share my experience in full. I hope you can manage to find the time to read it. It would be much appreciated.
Over the last six years, I’ve shared several posts about my dearly-loved late Mum. I wrote at the time she had her stroke, and then, a couple of years later, I wrote a post called THE MISSING MUM YEARS. It explained how, because of my disability, I could not access my Mum’s house, and Mum couldn’t leave there because of her severe agoraphobia, so we didn’t see each other for several years. It was heartbreaking.
It was only a few weeks after Mum’s stroke that she finally left the hospital and went to stay in a stroke rehabilitation unit, where she had her own room, daily physiotherapy and a television. There was wheelchair access to the unit, so I could finally see her regularly. She was, understandably, becoming depressed there because she’d always been so active and was mowing the lawn two weeks before her stroke. Now, she had no movement down her left side and became increasingly frustrated. It was awful to see my Mum like that. She spent three months there before my sisters and I had to decide whether Mum could return to her house as she wished. It was impossible. Mum had lived in a big Victorian terraced house with many stairs, which she just would have been able to manage.
We had many meetings with the hospital staff and the social workers there and finally concluded that Mum would need to go into a care home. It was decided that she would come to a home near me, given that my sisters all worked and lived too far away. I went on the search to find a suitable place, all the time knowing that Mum wasn’t happy about leaving her home after being there for decades. I spent several weeks visiting care homes, but none were suitable.
Finally, I found one called The Lodge. The lovely manager showed me around. I noticed many elderly and disabled residents, some asleep in chairs, some watching TV, and some happily participating in craft activities and bingo. The manager took me to the room that would be Mum’s. I really wanted her room to overlook the garden at the back, but because of the urgency of the situation, the only room they had had a view of the neighbouring house’s roof and a few weeds growing out of the paving down the side of the house.
Her room was almost bare, apart from a bed and a wardrobe. Some faded pictures hung on the walls, and some artificial flowers in a jug on the dressing table. The manager explained that Mum could bring any of her belongings, like pictures, photos, ornaments etc., to make the room more homely. I tried to imagine Mum there, knowing she would hate anywhere I could have found her. She wanted her independence back, but that couldn’t happen.
I felt so guilty because my disability and having no car meant that I was limited in choices of care homes. I would be the only member of my family who would be able to visit Mum regularly. This home had, at least, very kind and caring staff. I went back a couple more times to make sure I thought it would be suitable, knowing full well that Mum would hate being in any home. It was heartbreaking to have to make that choice on my own. A moving-in date was set for the 10th of January, 2017, one day after Mum’s birthday.
When I next visited the stroke unit, I told Mum all about it, ensuring I pointed out all the positive aspects and tried to help her come to terms with her upcoming move. She wasn’t happy, but I felt I had no choice. I would have loved her to come to live with me, but the practicalities made this impossible. She was so unhappy, and it broke my heart to see her this way. A couple of days later, she caught a cold that went to her chest and caused an infection. Then, it developed into pneumonia, meaning she had to return to the city’s main hospital. I saw her frequently, but she wasn’t at all well. My sisters and other family visited her; one sister flew over from Australia. She wasn’t really aware of what was going on, but now I imagine this is such a common scenario; families all flocking around their loved ones’ beds. I can’t help but wonder if she knew why we were there.
By the evening, the family had gone home, leaving just Mum and me. The ward sister allowed me to stay late, so I sat at Mum’s bedside, talking quietly and holding her hand. I sat with her for hours, talking to her and wondering if she could hear me as it wasn’t evident. A nurse came along to check Mum’s sats and said Mum’s oxygen levels were up a bit, and she seemed more alert. I was so relieved at the thought of Mum pulling through this horrible illness.
When I finally got home, feeling a bit more positive, I thought I would be able to see a lot of Mum now that she would live within my wheelchair-driving distance. I felt a little more reassured about the future.
And then, came the next morning and the phone rang very early. I hesitated before picking it up. As soon as I heard the sister’s voice, I knew it would be bad news. She spoke softly as she said my Mum had passed away about half an hour ago. I was devastated and put the phone down with tears streaming down my face. As the oldest daughter, I had the job of informing the rest of the family.
Looking back now, I’m almost sure that Mum had lost the will to live because of not being able to go back to her beloved home and having to go into a care facility. It was the 30th of December 2016, and only a few days before she was due to move to the home. I truly believe now that it was a blessing that she left us then rather than go into this care facility. She’d always been such a positive, independent woman, and this was her way of escaping the reality of her future.
My biggest regret that haunts me to this day is that Mum died alone in hospital with no one to hold her hand as she slipped away. I just can’t come to terms with this. Perhaps, I will do in time.
RIP, My precious and so much-loved Mum, 30/12/16
(I was prompted to write this piece after reading a post from Cindy Georgakas. Thanks, Cindy xx)
Image source Google Images.